My husband and I joke that our only child is our test-pilot kid: we do what we think we should be doing to raise him right, and if we make a mistake, we chalk it up to a learning experience for the next one (if there will ever be a next one). A very terrible example of this is that the back of my kid’s head is pretty flat.
I was so paranoid about him sleeping on his back to prevent SIDS and didn’t pay attention to turning his head to different sides to prevent the flatness on the back of his head. The pediatrician said it would round out as he grew, but it’s remained pretty flat. The more hair he gets, the less noticeable it is, but it still gives me that gut wrenching guilt when I think about it. Even though it’s really difficult to do so, I know I have to give myself grace because I thought I was doing what was best for my baby. He’s still healthy and happy, just a little different, and I console myself by thinking that next time, I’ll be more conscious of that. Next time, I’ll do things differently.
Because sometimes life doesn’t work out like you planned. Your all natural, epidural free labor turns into a cesarean section. Your plans to breastfeed turn into bottle feeding. Your plans to have a child who is healthy turns into caring for a delicate being with health issues that keep you awake at night. But with motherhood, if we choose, we get a second go-round on the labor and feeding train, at least. The issues we ran into with our first may not appear with our second. If we ended up feeling like we didn’t do things the way we wanted with our first child, we have a chance to change that with our second. Conversely, sometimes things are hunky dory with the first child, and it’s the second or third or even fourth child that throws a wrench into our plans. As mommas, we learn quickly that you have to keep mothering despite the challenges; you have to swim if you don’t want to sink.
Today’s Nursing Tales focus on just that: changes the second time around. These mommas faced varied difficulties between their first and second children and in turn changed course on how they fed the second time around.
I nursed my daughter, Abbe, for 6 months. It was super hard at first, and the nursing consultant appointment I had a week later was a life saver. I had to go back to work at 6 weeks, so I pumped and nursed all the time while I was off work. Since I worked retail, it helped with my production probably since I was able to nurse on my random days off. I probably would have nursed way longer, but it became difficult after 6 months with pumping breaks (this was 14 years ago – times are different now). Because I nursed my first, I totally felt like I missed out with my second.
Audri was considered a stork drop, meaning one day we got a call that she was born, and she was in our family immediately -no prep/plan time since it was all of a sudden. I wanted to induce lactation since I nursed my first child successfully, who wasn’t adopted, and learned it was very possible to induce lactation, sometimes difficult but possible. I also know this is considered taboo, but it’s really not a big deal. In fact, inducing lactation or even wet nursing (nursing someone else’s baby) was not only not taboo but the norm until about 75 years ago! She is my baby, so why shouldn’t I (and all mothers with adopted children) be able to experience this bond?
My body was made to feed my babies, and it already knew how, but due to the suddenness when Audri was placed, timing just didn’t work in our favor. Right before she was placed with us, I was put on a temporary medication that contained only one restriction: no nursing. I was heartbroken, but I knew I had other avenues to give my baby breastmilk. So, I looked into donor milk and had thousands of ounces donated for her! For her first 6 weeks, she was on breastmilk only. We even traveled with the donor milk! We were in Hawaii for her first few months of life, and I checked 500 ounces through luggage to bring with me! (Just an FYI: When packed correctly, it’s not hard to do; the airline just needs to be aware it has dry ice on board.)
Unfortunately, after 6 weeks of being on donated breastmilk, Audri began to have an allergic reaction, but we didn’t know to what! We couldn’t control what the donor ate/drank to try to figure out what was causing the reaction, so we had to go to formula. I hated that we didn’t have any other choice, that it was so beyond my control, but I was glad to see her back to normal and still well fed after being put on formula.
My breastfeeding journey started in 2007. I was a newly single, 6 months pregnant, 20 year old, who was scared to death to do it alone but proud of myself for finally having the courage to stop trying to fix my broken and abusive relationship. My ex was completely against breastfeeding and had told me multiple times it would be nothing but formula from day 1. I wanted to breastfeed. My mother nursed my sister and I for 17 and 19 months. All my cousins’ wives nursed their babies, and I wanted to join the ranks of nursing mothers in our family. All of a sudden, being a single parent meant I could do that.
When my daughter was born, I immediately put her to breast. She wouldn’t latch. I was heartbroken. The lactation consultant brought me a hospital grade pump and nipple shield, and within 4 1/2 hours, my daughter was happily suckling away. Once we got home, I nursed and pumped to build up a stash for when I went back to work. If we went out, I would nurse, but only if I didn’t have milk pumped for a bottle, and I always covered up. I tried to just plan around her eating schedule. My daughter took bottles so easily, with no nipple confusion. Everything was butterflies and rainbows, until she was 3 months old when I started a new job.
I had no idea you had to remove milk when you were apart to keep up your supply. My breasts were never engorged, but within 2 weeks, my milk had dried up. I was upset, but it was starting to feel like so much work. I was the only one of my friends who had a kid, and my life had been turned upside down before I was ready. I ended the nursing relationship and rarely looked back.
When I met my husband, the subject of more kids came up immediately. I was desperately determined to nurse any more children to at least 1 year. He agreed and sealed his fate! When we got pregnant with our son in 2012, I started researching birth and breastfeeding and taking a much more active role in my pregnancy, being older and wiser and all that…
When my son was born, labor and delivery went exactly as I’d envisioned. I was in heaven when they laid him on my stomach. He wiggled up towards my breasts and latched within minutes of birth, but then it felt like hellfire and nails and stabbing! I cried and begged my minutes old baby to stop nursing! The lactation consultant came in and just said I had “old lady nipples” and would need a nipple shield for as long as he was breastfed. The inconvenience of needing that shield combined with the pain was almost enough for me to throw in the towel. Luckily, the next day, a different lactation consultant came in. She helped me find a better hold to nurse him in. His pediatrician came and clipped an anterior tongue tie and said that “would do it”.
I still had so much pain. My son had no issues with weight gain; he topped the growth charts above 95% each visit. He seemed to be removing milk just fine, but he was leaving my nipples a bloody, mashed up mess. I started pumping in hopes that I could give him bottles because it was too painful to nurse him, but I still wanted him to have breastmilk. Unfortunately, my son refused bottles, and I tried every brand out there. So there I was, already 100+ ounces pumped and frozen but having to deal with the pain during nursing so that my son got his milk.
When Colin was just over 4 months old, I was introduced to Breastfeeding USA by a friend and decided to go to a meeting. If nothing else, I’d meet new mom friends (spoiler alert- I did). The breastfeeding consultants pointed out a posterior tongue tie and a lip tie right away. I cannot even begin to tell you how relieved I was because there was an issue AND a solution! Dr. Greg Notestine in Ohio was coming to train some dentists in Indianapolis on the laser procedure he uses on infants with ties. As soon as the procedure was over, I nursed Colin pain free for the first time ever. To say I cried is a vast understatement.
From that point on, our breastfeeding relationship changed and became everything I had hoped it would be. I kept pumping in hopes Colin would eventually take a bottle, but it never happened. I finally asked in my breastfeeding support group if anyone needed a donor, and I found two immediately. The first baby I shared my son’s milk with got 215 ounces, and the second baby needed 175 ounces to get them through until the end of their vacation. I found another baby a few months later who needed a regular donor, just to get her to a year. She received 750 ounces of breastmilk from me. Each time I met with these women, I took different things away from the experience. I hated parting with my son’s “What if something happens to me?” stash, but I loved that I was helping nourish other little ones. So when one of my closest friends was struggling to produce enough for her son, my son’s birthday buddy, when she went back to work, there was no hesitation. She had been right alongside me through our journey thus far, so why wouldn’t I share with her son? When she no longer needed milk, I stopped pumping. I kept track of the ounces because I needed the visual of what my body was able to do- nourish my chunky monkey AND provide for four other babies!
At that point, I had just started nannying for another friend of mine. She went back to work when her youngest was a few months old. She left plenty of milk, but her daughter sometimes wouldn’t take a bottle. She had mentioned in passing if I wanted to nurse her baby it would be fine with her. I was definitely a little weirded out by this at first, but thankfully she always took a bottle from me. One horribly gloomy day when she was just over 1, her mom didn’t pump anymore; there was minimal milk frozen, and she wouldn’t take any alternatives. She was fussy and inconsolable. I offered her my breast, and she immediately latched and calmed down. Nursing someone else’s baby was SO far outside my comfort zone…until it wasn’t. Of course, my son hated sharing, so I also got to experience something else I had had no desire to experience: tandem nursing. Again, it was not at all something I thought I would ever be comfortable with, until I had no other choice, then it wasn’t a big deal at all.
My husband had asked me at a year when I was weaning our son. I told him whenever Colin was ready. Honestly, I figured mine would be the kid to nurse until he left for college, only nursing on weekends and holiday breaks (kidding) because he was so attached to his “nursies”. But around 23 months, I had reached my limit of the constant signing for “nurse”, the hand down my shirt, and the CONSTANT tug and pull at my nipple while he daydreamed. I told my husband we were weaning that week.
My husband, the sweet man who did a complete 180 from “put it in a cup after 1” to “my wife will feed our son whenever, wherever, uncovered or not, and if you have a problem with that, you’ll have to go through me,” said to me, “You’re so close to making it to two years. I don’t want you to quit now that you’re so close and then regret it later. But whatever you want, I support your decision. You’ve given him almost 2 years of the best possible thing you could, and I’m thankful for how hard you’ve worked to do so.”
So we went another month, and this time, I treasured every time Colin went only 3 hours in between nursing sessions, each time he’d slip off in public to wave and smile at a stranger, tiny dribbles of milk dripping out the side of his mouth. I treasured when he’d cry out in the middle of the night for “mama” or do a drive by snacking when he was busying playing but wanted a little sip because when you nurse to 25 and ½ months, it feels like FOREVER. But when it’s over, and it’s your last baby; it’s not long enough.
There are times I miss the days I was enough for him. When he sadly states, “nursies are gone,” my heart breaks a little. But watching how confident and thriving he is, my heart bursts. Because although at the beginning of my journey, I didn’t feel that I was enough, at the close of this chapter, I’m filled with such a sense of pride and self-worth, knowing that I was, in fact, enough.
I gave birth to my beautiful, petite, 6 lbs 6 oz daughter and knew even before she was born that I wanted to breastfeed her. Just as my mom had breastfed all 5 of her girls.
I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was also induced. When my daughter was born, they checked her sugars, and they were low. I was told to breastfeed, and I tried. She was lethargic and just wanted to sleep. I got her tiny body naked to try to wake her up, and I was able to put my stubborn nipple in her mouth. The issue was my nipples. Once I realized my nipple was in her mouth, my nipple would soften up. I couldn’t hold a peak or make it stand out. She was able to nurse for a min or two, but it was already a struggle. After 20 minutes, I gave her back to the nurse, and they checked her sugars; they were too low and off she went to the NICU.
After getting settled into my recovery room and seeing her down in the NICU, I started pumping. I got a hospital grade pump and pumped every 2 hours. I was very fortunate to have nurses who allowed me to exclusively give my pumped milk for the first two days and allowed me to try at every feeding to breastfeed her. The routine was: introduce the nipple, give her pumped milk, give her formula. I would usually try for 10 minutes to get her to latch on, and it was a no go. She didn’t have the ability to keep my nipple out, and to top it off, I also found out that the other nipple was an inverted nipple, so it would take twice as much force to get it out. I was sad and angry at my body, but the nurses were very reassuring. I couldn’t stand to see her cry, so I would give her the bottle and eventually after my milk, the formula. I wanted her to gain weight a little faster and get better sooner. Yes, I could have just given her whatever it was that I pumped, but she might have stayed in the NICU longer. She had low platelets and was so jaundice that she was two shades from working at the Willy Wonka factory. So, that was my routine for the week I was there: nurse, bottlefed breastmilk, then formula.
Once she was discharged, I went home and came to terms I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed her. My husband tried so hard to understand how I felt; I didn’t feel like I had a bond with my own daughter. She looked like the splitting image of him, and to me, it was weird that I didn’t see myself in her features. I was determined to pump every day, all day, and I did!
Around the time she was two months old, I started to use a nipple shield. It worked! It took some work to find the right shield to use and how to use it and clean it. I was so happy, I cried! My husband was happy too. But, I wouldn’t use it in public, only at home because the idea of having to expose my nipple and breast for longer than I normally should have made me dread that someone would say something, so I just didn’t nurse in public.
Fast forward a bit, I took a trip back home to visit family. Guess what? I forgot all my pumping stuff and shields and all the gadgets I use when I pump. I was worried. My baby doesn’t latch; she’s too small; her jaw isn’t strong enough. What do I do? In a panic, I called my husband. “You need to mail it to me!” My mom said, “I’ll buy you a handheld pump for now.” She could hear the panic in my voice. My daughter was only about 8 lbs. She was always small and still is. Later than evening, I decided to breastfeed her without a shield. I’ll never forget that moment. She latched on like a champ and nursed. I kept thinking, “I’m breastfeeding my baby!” I cried happy tears and called my husband, who was just as happy for me. My mom was overjoyed!
After that moment, nothing else mattered. It was nice to go out and nurse without having to deal with all the extra stuff. I enjoyed every single time I did. Now at 19 months, she has started to self-wean and would probably be completely off of breastmilk, but every time she sees the baby (who is in my tummy) she remembers milk and will ask for it. I’m looking forward to my nursing relationship with this second baby now that I know I can breastfeed successfully and what to use to help me this time!
To all the mommas who haven’t been able to do things they way they wanted: I’m sorry. I know how frustrating that is, how heartbreaking it can be, how unbelievably unfair it feels. Just remember, you’re not alone, and it won’t necessarily be like this with your next baby if you choose to have one. To the mommas who are anxious the second won’t be like the first: breathe. Try to remember that there’s no sense in getting worked up over what you can’t control. We’re going to all just keep on keepin’ on and doing our best. Some of us know that all we can do is pray, and that’s okay too. That’s all we can do.
Regardless of how you end up feeding your baby, do it with love, and that will be enough.
You are always enough.
Happy feeding, mommas!